I just asked this new Wolfram Alpha search engine “what is economics”. It told me:
Economics: The branch of social science that deals with the production and distribution and consumption of goods and services and their management
This differs from the Robbins definition of economic science:
Economics is a science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses
And it differs from the broadest possible definition that we discussed earlier:
The study of how humans/societies allocate scarce resources.
Given no mention of “human behaviour” or incentives this definition is wider than the Robbins definition.
Is the Wolfram definition any different to our broadest definition? Well if certain elements are defined correctly I would say they are equivalent. As a result, it doesn’t tell us what economists do, or what the dominant school of economic thought is. Wolfram is simply giving us a definition of the broadest scope of what “economics” can be (and has been) seen as – as long as we define the “outputs” (goods and services) as widely as humanly possible.
So, given that the Robbins definition is the one that more fully captures the essence of what economists currently do (with our obsession with methodological individualism) I tried typing “what is economic science” in. But it told me:
Wolfram Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input